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How Can I Become a Trauma Nurse Practitioner?

Research what it takes to become a trauma nurse practitioner. Learn about education and licensing requirements, salary and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

What Is A Trauma Nurse Practitioner?

Trauma nurse practitioners are acute care nurses with graduate-level education who work in emergency or trauma departments. Trauma nurse practitioners provide medical care to patients with injuries requiring immediate medical attention. They assess a patient's condition, order diagnostic tests, perform wound care and prescribe treatments or medication. Trauma nurse practitioners also monitor patients and provide direct medical care, such as giving medication or changing dressings. These nurse practitioners may educate the patient and their family and prepare them to care for the injured party once they're discharged from the hospital.

Degree Required Master's degree
Education Field of Study Nursing
Key Responsibilities Examine and assess patient trauma, injury and medical condition; perform minor surgical procedures; order and perform diagnostic tests and evaluate results; make diagnosis and prescribe medication and treatment
Licensure and/or Certification Licensure as registered nurse is required; board certification for acute care nurse practitioners is available
Job Growth (2018-2028) 28% for all nurse practitioners*
Median Salary (2018) $107,030 for all nurse practitioners*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Would I Do as a Trauma Nurse Practitioner?

As a trauma nurse practitioner, you would be able to perform many of the same functions as physicians, such as administering medications, ordering lab tests, diagnosing ailments and more. Working with patients who require acute care for trauma means that you'll be one of the first health care professionals to affect treatment, so you need to be able to make expert decisions under pressure. You can encounter a wide range of medical emergencies, and your advanced practice education will aid you as you rapidly diagnose patients and order specific treatment plans.

What Education Do I Need?

Nurse practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses (RNs) with graduate-level degrees, so you should begin your nursing career with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program. There are some accelerated programs available from which you'd receive both your BSN and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees. In a BSN program, you would study the fundamentals of biology and gain clinical experience. Completion of a BSN program allows you to take the national licensing examination to become a registered nurse. In a master's program, you can choose a specialization, which would be acute care for the trauma NP track. Your studies would focus on the nursing techniques and knowledge used in trauma and emergency departments.

What License or Certification Do I Need?

After completing your BSN degree program, you need to take the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN), available through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (www.ncsbn.org). Successful completion of the exam allows you to practice as a nurse in the United States.

After finishing your MSN program, you may choose to seek voluntary certification to demonstrate your professional ability and knowledge. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (www.nursecredentialing.org) and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (www.aacn.org) both offer certifications for acute care nurse practitioners. You are eligible to sit for both of the exams when you have an RN license and an acute care MSN degree.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Occupational therapists, physician assistants and nurse anesthetists perform many tasks that are similar to the work of a trauma nurse practitioner. Occupational therapists see patients who may be dealing with illness, injury or disability. They develop treatment plans for patients to improve their ability to perform daily tasks. Physician assistants diagnose and treat patients in conjunction with other healthcare workers. Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia to patients for surgical procedures and monitor the patient's vital signs during these procedures. Like trauma nurse practitioners, all of these medical professionals need a master's degree.